When a kid announces “I’m bored”, rather than running through the usually list of chores suggest a little digital spring cleaning. Instead of organizing their closet, kids can organize their online friends or followers.
During the initial excitement of joining a social network, kids may accept all friend requests. This can quickly lead to a list of hundreds of online friends. Taking the time go through and remove friends and place the remaining in lists or circles is an essential step in protecting personal information.
Kids are relying on friends’ privacy settings and digital citizenship to protect their information. With a large tenuous friends list, posts and photos can be shared faster and farther. Many of these friends may be just acquaintances and some not even that. Regardless of their relationship, all of these people have access to a kid’s profile and information.
Parents should work with kids to establish guidelines for friending. For younger teens, parents may want to limit friends to only people they have met in the real world face to face and not through a digital device. For older teens, parents may want to talk about online friends or pen friends. Pen friends are the new pen pals. They are someone kids have talked to only online. Kids may have met this person through playing an online game or in an online chat room. Kids should remember with online friends, they are never 100% sure who they are talking to. If an online friend has little or no connection to your kid’s real world, always use caution.
Using these set guidelines, kids can start organizing their list. First, they may want to remove some tenuous friends. Most services will allow people to unfriend without notifying the other person. On Facebook, kids go to the person’s profile, hover over the friends box at the top of their profile and click unfriend. The person will not be notified but your kid’s name will be removed from their list of friends. Now, kids can place the remaining friends in different lists or circles. For example, kids may want to create lists for close friends, family, school, sports, pen friends etc.
Most kids do not want to share everything with everyone. By sharing the right information with the right people, they may find their online network is more real and more friendly.